"To the Moon" followed by a string of exclamation marks, the more the better, is a frequently heard slogan in crypto circles. It usually refers to this or that cryptocurrency raising in value to the Moon and beyond, and making early adopters filthily rich. But here I want to propose another interpretation of the slogan.
I'll confess that I couldn't give less of a damn for crypto prices. I am one of those who immediately cash out crypto to buy food and pay bills. The very few times I have decided to "hodl" (some people should really learn spelling) I have been sorely disappointed.
So why do I write about crypto? Why, to make a little cash of course. But I am also persuaded that crypto can bring positive change to the world, which is what I'm really interested in. Blockchain technology is not an end, but a tool to make people (anyone, anywhere) more autonomous and less dependent on Big Government and Big Business. Here at Crypto Insider, I focus on blockchain technology as a means to increase financial self-ownership and privacy, and build a decentralized internet.
I said that bitcoin price isn't important. But of course bitcoin price IS important. Bitcoin and blockchain technology would never have taken off without the greed of the early miners and speculators. I think the lesson from bitcoin is a very important one:
People will participate in all sorts of world-changing projects if they see a credible financial incentive.
I am a former space professional and a lifetime space enthusiast. Therefore, I spend time thinking about game-changing applications of blockchain systems to space exploration.
I think the most sensible next step in space is going back to the Moon and building a sustainable human presence there. Mars will follow, then the planets, and eventually the stars, but at this moment I think we should focus on the Moon. Therefore, I support the plans of the current US administration for NASA.
But the thing is, in today climate of petty partisan "politics," the next US administration of a different color will immediately kill the space plans of the current administration, and the following one will do exactly the same.
Therefore, since the US administration changes color every 8 or even 4 years, which is less than the time it takes for a new space program to take off, we are stuck on the ground.
In "The Value of the Moon" (2016) the late lamented Paul Spudis argues that there's plenty of money to make on the Moon for the private sector. A few wealthy "space barons" like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are taking first steps. Yesterday Musk's SpaceX tweeted that the name of the first space tourist to fly around the Moon aboard the company's new BFR (B stands for Big, R stands for Rocket, and guess what F stands for) will be revealed next Monday.
These are very encouraging signs, but I think public funding is still needed to bootstrap a self-sustaining space economy.
It would also be good to have ways for unaffiliated space enthusiasts and the public at large to participate. There are plenty of organizations for space enthusiasts, big and small. For example, the Moon Village Association has been formed to implement the idea of a permanent international Moon Village, proposed among others by Jan Woerner, director of the European Space Agency (ESA).
However, no association of space enthusiasts has ever raised enough money to become a major player. This brings me back to the lesson from bitcoin: There must be a credible financial incentive to participate.
At the time of The DAO, I was optimistic and enthusiastic on the potential of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) to raise enough money for ambitious space programs. I still am, but the regulators have gotten in the way.
These days, if you just vaguely hint at the remotest possibility that maybe the value of your crypto token might perhaps modestly increase one day, you'll be attacked and punished by the regulators. You could try and play nice to persuade the regulators that your ICO distributes "utility tokens" instead of, God forbid, securities, but the process could be long and cost a lot of money in legal fees.
Of course, this isn't the first time that the regulators stand in the way of progress, and won't be the last.
In an interesting article published in 2016 in The Space Review, titled "Blockchains and the emerging space economy," Vidvuds Beldavs suggests to create "space money," a currency specifically designed for a space economy. According to Beldavs, a viable space money infrastructure should be able to efficiently handle property rights, use rights, and automatic transactions between robotic systems.
"In effect, the space economy will be an instance of the Internet of Things (IoT)," argues Beldavs. "The first operating facility on the Moon is likely to be a robotic village with the robotic systems communicating with each other and with humans offsite through the Internet."
"The common element among space money, a space property registry, and the IoT for robotic systems in space is the use of blockchain technology."
Registries and automated IoT transactions could be implemented with smart contracts in the Ethereum blockchain or similar, without needing to develop a separate blockchain. In this case, space money units would be crypto tokens, for example ERC20 tokens in the Ethereum blockchain, which is the mechanism adopted by most ICOs.
I'm persuaded that creating and selling space money tokens would permit raising enough funds for really ambitious space programs, like the recently proposed Coral mission to demonstrate additive manufacturing (3D printing) on the lunar surface, or even the Moon Village itself... IF the regulators could be kept out of the way. But the thing is, the regulators won't stay out of the way.
Another possibility is to implement space money as a separate, independent blockchain. In this case, the new blockchain could be designed from the ground up to have all the needed features, including very high throughput, very low energy consumption, and optimization for light IoT embedded devices.
Developing space money with a new optimized blockchain would take time, but a solid platform could be proposed and eventually adopted as infrastructure and currency for segments of the future space economy. The new platform, managed by an independent foundation, could permit implementing COST (common ownership self-assessed tax) for space resources, and incorporate a fair crowdfunding mechanisms for the the space commons, for example with quadratic voting.
Early miners and buyers would be motivated by the possibility to sell space money when it takes off, just like early bitcoin miners and buyers. I'm not aware of any law or regulation that prohibits developing a new blockchain.
Picture from SpaceX.
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Crypto Insider Editor Giulio Prisco is a writer specialized in science, technology and business. He is persuaded that crypto has the potential to bring disruptive positive changes to the internet and society at large.